Top 5 Best Finds from the LA Travel Show
I never know what to expect from Travel Shows, wall to wall billboards of breathtaking landscapes, littered with brochures of adventure and smiles. Add to that, everyone there is a salesman vying to draw attention from other dream destinations to their own vacation paradise. I literally never know what will come out as a ‘must visit’ destination even if I go in with a well thought out list. Past shows have ended up leading me from Iceland to St. Paul, Minnesota because, at the end of the day when walking away with bags of brochures, the experiences and atmosphere that catch me off guard and surprise me with possibility beat out classically famous vacation spots.
This year was no different, I found local and international destinations that I didn’t expect; I was won over by a country that I had never considered before, and, now voluntourim is at the top of my bucket list.
Here is my list of Top 5 2012 Destinations from the LA Travel and Adventure Show:
Orangutan Odysseys – Animal experiences are the Double Stuffed Oreo of travel (since Oreos are the best cookie of all time). So, how could I not be thrilled about a trip to get up and close with Orangutans. Offering a wide variety of experiences customizable to individual taste, Orangutan Odysseys can put me face to face with this giant orange-haired ape, yay! Beyond my own personal thrill though, this organization helps preserve the natural orangutan habitat by offering farmers and land owners a financial incentive not to clear-cut their land. By going on a outing to fulfill my own personal agenda, I could also be helping to ensure the safety of this species – I mean come on orangutans are awesome.
Ouray, Colorado USA – This city bucks the trend. Most places which call themselves ‘four season destinations’ are trying to off-set their low season (ie ski resorts during the summer), but Ouray really has me planning two very different trips, one for summer and one for winter. Definitely an adventure destination, it’s hard to tell which Ouray season excites me more, winter offers ice climbing while summer offers the chance to repel through waterfalls. Of course I thought I would have to have some training before I could do either of these activities, but the people from Ouray were quick to set me straight. Just about anyone, even kids, can get harnessed up and take to the rope of their choice. Outside of the heavily traveled areas of Colorado, Ouray also offers slightly more affordable vacations, and with flights as low as $30 from LA, this is totally a city I will be seeing twice in 2012. (Travel Tip: Ouray is pronounced Uray – like the O doesn’t even exist).
The Village Experience – Founded by two sisters, this company organizes ‘socially responsible’ travel experiences while promoting fair trade by selling local artisan items on their website. Traveling mainly to third world countries and mixing in both cultural and service elements while still allowing time for tourism and relaxation, these trips immediately appealed to me more than typical voluntourism ever has (and it didn’t hurt that the sisters were cute). Of all the trips they organize, I’m most excited about their cultural tour through Jerusalem, Israel, and Jordan, which has a trip to the Dead Sea and a camel ride scheduled alongside meetings with a community development organization and meals served in local homes.
Taiwan – Having put on the most elaborate display several years in a row, I can tell they are excited about sharing their culture and their sights, and with each new travel show I’ve added to the list of things I would like to see if I visited. However, until this year, I never felt that pull in my gut that gets me scouting fares on Kayak. Of all things, it’s a hike and dining that have me all excited to visit, two things that nearly never attract me to anything. The hike is Taroko Gorge, a hike made entirely on marble, and the food is Din Tai Fung – rated some of the best food in the world and still only $20.
Santa Ynez Valley – California USA – I had to include this destination. Not only was I turned onto a bunch of new reasons to visit this year by the tourism bureau, but, after our brief trip through Solvang last year, I know for a fact I will be making a 2012 return. This area has it all, great food, interesting culture, amazing wine, and really unique attractions; even though we were only there for a brief overnight, we fed ostriches, talked and tasted with a local wine maker, and camped on the beach nearly entirely by ourselves. Close enough to LA to be either a long day trip or a great weekend trip, the Santa Ynez Valley has such a wide variety of activities it can be customized to any taste.
These 5 destinations and companies aren’t the only places that impressed me during the show. Heavy with US destinations, I was also impressed by Calveras, California for it’s Free Birthday Caving and Giant Sequoias, Fairfield, California for it’s Jelly Belly Factory Tour, and Cedar City, Utah for it’s annual Shakespeare Festival.
This year was like every other year, I go in expecting to hang out with the Africa people, talking about giraffe spotting, and end up knowing I’ll be having the time of my life in a place I had no idea existed when I woke up that morning. How come the world only gets bigger?
What are your top destinations for 2012? Which one will you head to first?